MoCo Delegation Not Happy With Larry Hogan

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The Montgomery County Annapolis delegation is unhappy that Governor Hogan opted to fully fund a new Baltimore City prison facility for $480 million this year, and also eliminate funding for planned expansion at the Universities at Shady Grove. And when you’re not happy, what do you do? Why, in politics, you write a sternly worded letter. Here’s the letter signed by 30 out of 32 members of the MoCo delegation.

Dear Governor Hogan:

As you know, your unilateral decision to spend $480 million on a new jail will result in unreasonable delays in funding for major projects at numerous universities. One of the projects that will be delayed by your decision to redirect funding from higher education to the Baltimore City jail is a long-planned expansion of the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) in Montgomery County.

In case you are unfamiliar with the history of this project, your Administration’s Fiscal 2016 Capital Budget included the USG expansion under “projects with pre-planned authorizations,” and $72 million was allocated to the project for Fiscal 2017. Montgomery County relied on this provision in your 2016 Capital Budget and spent $26 million of county funds for a parking garage, so that the planned expansion could move forward. This $26 million was an unprecedented county funding match that no other county in the state has ever done. But, in your proposed 2017 Capital Budget, the USG expansion project has been eliminated completely. As a result, an important investment in our state’s higher education has been eliminated to fund a new jail. Clearly, both projects are impofiant and necessary. But, we believe true leadership requires balancing the needs of all jurisdictions, higher education and other important shared goals for the citizens of Maryland. Your proposed Capital Budget fails miserably in this regard.

Although we recognize the dire need to build a jail facility in Baltimore City given that the existing structure was built during the Civil War and provided deplorable conditions for detainees and those sentenced to a term in that facility, we are extremely disappointed that you elected to completely ignore and bypass the planning process for the Capital Budget. The fact that you and your staff failed to even discuss excluding or delaying long standing capital projects for higher education before announcing the plan to devote $480 million to a new jail is simply inexplicable.

We would appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate how the programs at the Universities at Shady Grove are intefiwined with Maryland’s economic development opportunities. Many USG programs service the projected needs of major local employers including The National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Food and Drug Administration, National Security Agency, MedlmmunelAstraZeneca, United Therapeutics and more. This is not a coincidence. Business leaders help USG monitor workforce demands and expand degree offerings through partnerships. Today these programs include an array of health, science and technology fields ranging from biotech and cybersecurity, to laboratory science and health care management. We welcome you to visit USG and our thriving businesses and employers in the fields noted above that are located in Montgomery County

With all due respect, your decision to build a new $480 million jail by eliminating or delaying approved, vetted capital projects for universities and colleges, including USG, without consulting members of the General Assembly appears directly opposite to your comments in the State of the State address where you said, “Let’s reach across the aisle, and continue to do everything we can to help our state compete in the region and throughout the nation. Maryland’s business community can and will be strong again.”

It is a sad, unfortunate and startling fact that Maryland spends more on corrections than it does on higher education. This is exacerbated by your decision to fund the Baltimore City jail over higher education. Again, we understand there is a clear need for a new correctional facility in Baltimore. However, there is a capital improvement plan already in place for such a new facility. Note that many of us would support expediting the plan given the deplorable conditions of the facility. But, expediting the entirety of the new jail facility at the expense of higher education is pure folly. Respectfully, if Maryland is “open for business,” then we must invest in higher education for many reasons, including providing an educated workforce for current and future Maryland businesses.

You repeatedly state that your door is open for lawmakers who would like to engage in discussion. We respectfully request that you and/or an administration official join us at a Montgomery County Delegation meeting, held every Friday morning before the 11:00 am floor session, so that we can discuss these matters.

Over to you, Governor Hogan. Three, two, one. . . .

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